Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Good Luck of Right Now

I’ve been batting a thousand lately in my book selections, and this offbeat and uplifting gem is no exception. The Good Luck of Right Now is the latest novel from Matthew Quick, the acclaimed author of The Silver Linings Playbook, who has once again brought us a cast of quirky and original characters for whom to root and love.

Bartholomew Neil is 39 and newly alone since the death of his mom with whom he’d lived his entire life and whom he’d cared for after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Bartholomew’s mom had been Richard Gere’s biggest fan and after the chemo and brain surgery failed and dementia set in she took to pretending he was Richard. By the time she was confined to the sofa bed in the living room with a morphine pump in her arm, Bartholomew was playing Richard twenty-four hours a day. As Bartholomew tells it, she pretended he was Richard Gere and Bartholomew “pretended Mom wasn’t losing her mind…pretended she wasn’t going to die…pretended I (he) wouldn’t have to figure out life without her.”

Bartholomew has never worked or really been part of the outside world; before his mom’s illness his days were limited to home, church, and the library. Now on his own, Bartholomew has no one except for Wendy, the young grief counselor (in training) who’s got issues of her own and Father McNamee, a friend and father figure who has been a constant throughout his life. Wendy urges him to fly “You need to find your flock now. Finally leave the nest, so to speak;” and sure, it sounds good but he is at a loss as to where to start, that was until he received a cosmic clue. Prepping his mom’s clothes for donation, Bartholomew finds in her underwear drawer a “Free Tibet” form letter from none other than Richard Gere himself and he sees in it a sure sign that maybe Gere was meant to help him now that his mom is gone, and so begins a one sided conversation as Bartholomew writes soul-baring letters to Richard Gere on a wide range of topics.

It is through these letters that we get a window into Bartholomew’s fledgling new life and growing hodgepodge family whose members include newly defrocked priest Father McNamee, struggling with alcoholism and bipolar disorder; the Girlbrarian, whom Bartholomew has loved from afar forever, and Max, her foul-mouthed brother currently grieving the loss of his cat. But what story could be complete without a road trip? Well, there’s one of those too, as this madcap bunch of flawed yet lovable human beings decide to hit the road in a road trip to end all road trips, making their way to Canada to visit cat Parliament, find Bartholomew’s long lost dad, and so much more.

I love this book! The Good Luck of Right Now is a charming, original and sweet tale of loss and grief, love and hope, and friendship and acceptance where it’s never too late to reach for your dreams. In Bartholomew Neil, Matthew Quick has given us a struggling hero (we’re never told of Bartholomew’s limitations, but I think it might be autism or Asperger), whose innocent vulnerabilities encompass a kind soul willing to put others before himself. A poignant tale where each character’s past hurts and loneliness is erased with the caring and understanding of new friendships and simple kindness.

While I was touched by each character, I must say it is Bartholomew who won my heart. I think it’s because I felt like I could so relate and empathize with his loss. Sure, I don’t have Asperger, though given my social awkwardness and anxiety sometimes I wonder, but I felt his grief and I understand the impact of losing a mother; of losing someone you not only love, but who was your life and gave your life purpose. Bartholomew’s love was evident in every shared memory of his mom; in the simple statement that “mom could make small things seem miraculous. That was her talent.” Equally apparent and endearing was Bartholomew’s goodness as through sheer kindness and grace he helped cobble together a family from these misfit strangers that somehow in this great big world were able to find each other.

The Good Luck of Right Now is a feel good story that is funny and touching; filled with your fair share of F-bombs thanks to Max, though that didn’t bother me in the least since each usually came with an at times offensive but always hilarious rant. Let me tell you that there is a humanity and heart in this tale not found in many books. The Good Luck of Right Now reminds us that love and friendship can be the light that illuminates our path on our darkest days and the courage that helps us face our deepest fears.